Re: [GZG] Not So Small thought re: Orbital Assault
From: Zoe and Carmel Brain <aebrain@w...>
Date: Fri, 25 Nov 2005 18:37:54 +1100
Subject: Re: [GZG] Not So Small thought re: Orbital Assault
I've been giving this a lot of thought, but from a rather different
First, working out what would be a good game, utilising as much as
possible existing game mechanics, and only then coming up with the PSB
to justify it, rather than looking at authenticity first, or what
happened in Iraq, Normandy, Dnieperpetrovsk, Market/Garden, Gallipoli,
Iwo Jima, Klendathu and Hoth. Or how much Fire Support Falkenberg's 42nd
or Hammers Slammers could call on.
Where I did examine both real and fictional invasions, I tended to
concentrate on the more cinematic aspects : the "Commando" operations
ideal for SGII, and the base assault on Hoth.
I started out with a "top down" approach : what planetary defences could
do, what their likely limitations were, how they could be integrated
into the GZGverse for FT primarily.
The easiest method, and one with the least impact on the rules
mechanics, is to have planetary defence bases being merely motionless
ships on a planet. After all, if the Planetary Defence Unit (PDU) system
is on an airless asteroid, what difference is there between a PDU and a
cruiser that's moored to it?
But when you get to "objects of significant interest", ie habitable
planets with biospheres, hydrospheres, and atmospheres, the problem
becomes different. Then, you have to consider interactions of weapons
with the atmosphere. For this, taking FT only as canonical, we have
specialised Ortillery, which has limited if any Anti-ship (AS)
capability, but is vastly better at planetary attack.
To get a decent game, we need to have normal weaponry degraded a LOT to
make Ortillery useful. We also need to have PDUs cheap enough so they
should exist, but expensive enough so system ships (with no FTL) become
useful if there are multiple points in a system to be defended.
A reasonable break-even point is 2 : if only a single point (planet
etc), then use a PDU. If 2, then 2 PDUs or the same cost in System
Ships. If 3+, System ships would be better. A better break even point is
3, if tugs are available.
So let's say that a PDU costs 1/3 as much as the equivalent ship,
providing its built near an industrial base. This is not so much due to
the cost of lofting to orbit, but the use of cheaper construction
materials ( 100 metre thick Ferro-concrete vs 2cm of Unobtanium), the
use of oceans or underground rivers as heat exchangers, or whatever PSB
Now a reasonable "firing arc" for weapons is 1 arc, 60 degrees.
Otherwise, I dunno, the thickness of the atmosphere gets in the way,
whatever. Firing arcs SMs stay at 180 degrees, the things can "bunt"
after a vertical launch. Similarly, a PDU can only be fired at by things
in that arc.
The upshot is that a planetary invasion has 2 possibilities: to land
"outside the arc" of the defences, and face a month-long slog vs local
guerilla forces and counter-attack to get to the place of interest, or
to drop in the teeth of the defences and take its lumps on the way in,
hopefully having supressed them with ortillery.
A little jiggling of the fighter rules would allow fighters to be both
useful planetary defences, and useful planetary attackers, operating
inside the atmosphere and so with weapons not degraded. More jiggling,
and "commando launches" of fighter-size, but carrying sticks of special
forces, could land by stealth and conduct raids to take out the Beam-10s
Well-settled planets, with population centres on multiple continents,
will have multiple PDUs, with no single "safe" landing site arc. But
that invites defeat in detail, if equally distributed, each 60 degree
arc has only 1/6 of the defences that it would have if it was all in one
place, to state the obvious.
A neat way of balancing costs is to make them proportional to the number
of sites being defended. An outer colony, with 1 continent settled, will
have 1 PDU per X points. An inner world, with 6 continents settled, will
have 6 PDU for the same price - simply because it has more industry
that's closer. So worlds can be considered in a strategic game as having
values of 1-6, indicating approximate population factors. A size 1 world
has ~10,000, size 2 ~100,000, size 6 ~1,000,000,000.
How much do PDU's cost? Let's say 1/3 of the equivalent ship, and they
also get unlimited single-row armour free ( and all but bypassed by
specialised Ortillery). Non-damagable Screens too, if the atmosphere is
thick (but targets get the same protection). Damage to this armour
indicates damage to the environment, civilian casualties etc. Cities
could be represented by "passenger spaces". Give the PDUs too much of a
pasting, and you'll kill megapeople in the bunkers. Use too many
non-specialised planetary attack weapons, like the dreaded KV "Mass
Drivers" or Beams, and you conquer a radioactive or dust-covered
hellhole. That's why you need ground forces, and have a reason for DS2
and SG2 games.
As to the exact mechanisms of landing troops, interface with tactical
rather than defence-suppression ortillery etc, I leave that to the
GroPos. This view is strictly that of the Sky Marshall, charged with
getting the troops dirtside. It covers the space battles where an
invasion fleet must fight its way through a mix of FTL, System-ship and
PDU defences to land its troops (or conduct some strategic bombardment
or close blockade), and that only.
Zoe & Carmel Brain
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